Monday, March 11, 2013

What We Spent on Spring Break

Cost of family travel is a common topic among parents. And this recent article in the New York Times definitely got the family travel blog group I'm a part of buzzing. In it, $4,500 is given as the cost of a "budget" trip for spring break.

Say what?! I don't know about you, but $4,500 and "budget" don't belong in the same sentence as far as I'm concerned. So I thought I'd take a look back at what our trip to Florida for spring break last year cost our family of four.

I outline our expenses below. You'll see that we spent well under $2,000. And by no means did we keep a tight watch on our wallets while there. We ate out often (at least once each day, usually at sit-down restaurants). We still went to major attractions, like the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa. And we stayed in a 2-bedroom condo across from the beach. I didn't even really think of this as a budget trip. 

In fact, this was the most expensive trip we took all year. The rest of our travels in 2012 involved driving, staying with family, or both. So we were comfortable taking on the expense of this vacation, knowing that our other travels were significantly less.

COSTS for 2012 Trip to Madeira Beach, Florida

Dinner out at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                        $50
Groceries:                                                                                                                                  $103
(included diapers, wine, beer and beach toys in addition to food supplies)

Toll at Fort De Soto Park:                                                                                                          $0.50
Lunch at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                                  $45
Dinner (pizza take-out) :                                                                                                            $14

Day 3
Expenses at Farmer’s Market:                                                                                                   $10
($5 for 2 empanadas, $5 donation for balloon animal)

Lunch at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                                    $32
Dinner at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                                  $60

Day 4
Zoo admission:                                                                                                                              $48
Lunch at zoo cafe:                                                                                                                         $27
Seafood dinner take-out:                                                                                                            $48
Ice cream:                                                                                                                                      $10

Day 5
Lunch at sit-down restaurant:                                                                                                     $35

Equipment rental:                                                                                                                         $48
(Included jogging stroller, baby swing and pack n play. $48 is after I used a $20 gift card.)

Rental Car:                                                                                                                                      $306
(included 2 car seats for 5 days)

Vacation rental:                                                                                                                             $406
(2 BR, 1 bath condo across the street from beach for 4 nights)

Flight to/from Indianapolis/Tampa for 3 people + 1 lap child:                                               $538      
1 checked bag:                                                                                                                      $40 ($20 each way)

TOTAL:                                                                                                                                             $1820.50
You spent HOW MUCH to take me to Florida?

Ways we saved:
·        Free fun at places like Fort De Soto Park and hours spent on the beach across from our condo.

·        A trip to the grocery store meant we always ate breakfast at the condo and the adults had an adult beverage each night when kids were in bed, instead of drinking at restaurants or bars.

·        We stayed across the street from the beach instead of beach front. We also only stayed 4 nights instead of a full week. With kids so young, we find this is a good length of time. Plus, my husband doesn't have to use as many vacation days and we can take additional trips throughout the year.

·        Our condo did not have a pool, which was a huge price break when comparing similar properties in the area.
·       My parents dropped us off and picked us up at the airport, so we had no parking expenses.

Ways we splurged:
·       We rented car seats, a stroller, pack n play and baby swing. We also checked a bag. I despise lugging stuff through the airport and it was much easier to have those items waiting for us upon arrival.

·       Our 2-bedroom condo. We avoid staying in hotels for more than just a night or two because our kids are so young. Everyone sleeps much better this way.

·       When pricing flights, there were several options that had one stop which were $50-$100 less than the direct flight we booked. But it was so nice to have my toes in the sand within hours of leaving Indy.

·       We love to eat out when on vacation, so while we could have had more lunches and dinners at our condo, we enjoy trying out great restaurants in the area.
You can't put a price tag on memories like this.

This post is a part of Travel Tips Tuesday at Walking on Travels and Suitcases and Sippy Cups.


  1. This is decent spending, some memories are totally priceless. Very true!I hate flights because they cost.

  2. I also believe that $4500 is an absurd amount of money for a 'budget' vacation. We are pretty frugal when we travel (not always) so we can travel more, see more and experience more. Larger lodging accommodations are always one of the ways we splurge, but go a long way towards keeping the peace when traveling with my teens who enjoy having their own space.

  3. I wonder how many people that $4500 covered? Certainly not a budget vacation, although I have found that food costs have increased for our family as my kids are old enough to be "adult" eaters. But I try to get the best deals on travel and accommodations so we don't have to nickel and dime ourselves at every meal. It was great to see how you can travel without breaking the bank!

  4. Great breakdown and a perfect way to show that family vacation is totally affordable. I think many people just want a quality vacation and don't think much about quantity. When I see a price tag like $4500, I see at least three trips!

  5. Love that you broke down the cost of your trip! This would be so useful for trip-planning and for reflecting on what we spent for our next travels. I think we do this mentally, but I've never actually written it down.

  6. No doubt ,this is a big amount of money, but it definitely provided a unique wonderful experience. Thanks for sharing this wonderful post, as I also plan to travel soon in Florida.

  7. So, I agree $4,500 is insane, but I also know a lot of people that spend that much, usually unnecessarily.

    We went to Europe for 2 weeks and only spent $2k (used miles for the flights).

    I do not think I have ever spent $4.5k on a trip, and I have done some really outlandish traveling.

    A lot of my collegaues do spend a lot though, mostly because 1)they do not travel a lot, so they want whatever the resort/agent/hotel tell them is "the best" 2) They just do not know what they are doing. A collague of mine, with a husband & 2 kids, spent 5k last year on 3 days in Cancun (that was 5k before they left....). I nearly had a heart attack!

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